It's not difficult to see why, out of the many talented new Irish bands on the scene, O Emperor are one of the lucky few to have landed a major label deal this year. There's something inherently agreeable and distinctly marketable about the Waterford five-piece. Releasing their long-awaited debut with the help of Universal Music, O Emperor wear their alt-country influences on their sleeves but never leave them to go stale, taking enough risks to make Hither Thither sporadically enchanting.
Though O Emperor's vocal harmonies are paramount, the piano is the glue that holds 'Hither Thither' together. Proudly boasting influences including Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Band, 'Sedalia' sounds almost as if it was plucked directly from the 70s, while 'Heisenberg' blends Beach Boys style harmonies with a ghostly melody and backdrop of hazy reverb.
Though some songs are admittedly banal (let's face it, those more likely to be singles), the slide guitar of 'Don't Mind Me' even bordering on trite, these are easily outweighed by the likes of 'Taloned Air' with its echoing drums and dramatic, feedback filled climax. Elsewhere, 'Catch 22' charms with its simple yet delectable melody and an operatic wail pushes closer 'The Fat Lady Sings' to reach its fitting pinnacle.
At its lowest points Hither Thither resembles music your dad might listen to (assuming your dad has reasonable taste), but at its highest it echoes the sort of intuitive and contemporary alternative folk peddled by the likes of Midlake or Grizzly Bear. It may not be perfect, but there's absolutely no doubt these boys have a bright future ahead of them.